Should Christians Stay in the Methodist Church Now?
“What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace” – John Wesley.
I am writing this on my own personal blog for two reasons. Firstly to support my brothers and sisters in the Methodist church who have decided to leave, but are coming under increasing pressure to stay (not least from fellow evangelicals). And secondly because I would not ask any of the sites I write for to publish this. They don’t need the hassle. And I need to freedom to say what I believe God has laid on my heart (I add the caveat that of course I could be wrong – judge for yourself!).
As predicted in my article in CT the Methodists have overwhelmingly supported a change in doctrine which goes against the teaching of Christ about marriage. Resolution 59/8 which recognises both same sex ‘marriage’ and co-habitation was passed by 254 votes to 46. You know it’s bad when Steve Chalke tweets in support!
But it’s even worse than that simple bare statement of the facts.
Consider the following:
- The Methodist Church have passed a law which defies logic – so much so that the BBC even recognised that they were accepting two different versions of marriage. This is what the conference voted for:
The Conference amends Standing Orders as follows:
011A Marriage (1) The Methodist Church believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be is given by God to be a particular channel of God’s grace, and that it is in accord with God’s purposes when a marriage is a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman two people who freely enter it. Within the Methodist Church this is understood in two ways: that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; that marriage can be between any two people. The Methodist Church affirms both understandings and makes provision in its Standing Orders for them.
So, the Methodist Church has voted that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, AND that marriage can be between any two people. They ‘affirm’ both. Stop. Think. And realise how insane and dishonest that is. You cannot affirm that marriage can ONLY be between a man and a woman and then affirm that it CAN be between any two people. The Methodists have made logic, language, and reality meaningless. And the Church a laughing stock.
And then the Methodist Church lied. Their spokesperson declared that this change of doctrine on marriage was not in fact a change of doctrine. I suppose when you can believe two contradictory things you can also believe that lying is telling the truth!
And there is more. The Methodist church denies the uniqueness of Christ. The Shetland area wanted to have an amendment affirming the uniqueness of Christ. I understand this was voted down because those who work in multi-faith chaplaincies said it would make their work ‘difficult’.
What will Evangelicals do?
The pattern has been repeated so many times I can tell you. And I can also say the liberals know how weak and spineless most evangelicalism is, so they will play the same cards that always get played.
Firstly, the evangelicals will try to get a theological review as a kind of delaying tactic. This never works. And did not work this week. That proposal was voted down.
Then the bureaucrats who run the denomination, fearing the loss of evangelicals (which means a loss of committed people and money) will offer a carrot. They talk about ‘walking together in love’ – the report is after all entitled ‘God in love unites us. And they will say to evangelicals how welcome they are in a denomination which has just emphatically rejected the teaching of Christ. And some evangelicals will buy into that lie.
And then there is the stick approach. Any suggestion of leaving will be met by threats – ‘you won’t get your buildings or your money’. And many evangelicals will cave. But I would plead with them not to. Why stay? There are financial and political and practical reasons, but are there any biblical? Does a Christian have a right to stay in an apostate church – one that rejects Christ? What is the point?
I hear the objections already!
‘We are needed’. By whom? For what? Yes, you are needed – to go and preach the Gospel in a world which is desperate for it – not to shore up a denomination which is so opposed to it! Anyone who knows Methodist history will know Wesley and Whitefield’s answer to that. If people stay in because they think they can turn this around, I would suggest that that is a form of wishful thinking which makes the prosperity gospel look pessimistic!
‘We don’t have to do what they say”– Not yet. But the day will come! But that’s not really the issue. You belong to, support, and are part of a denomination that goes against Christ. If your denomination was racist would you say – ‘but we don’t have to be racist”?! I hope not.
‘Leaving is too difficult’ – I don’t underestimate the difficulties or pain. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of a burning building – but it ends up being worse staying! It may take planning, thought, effort, but there is a time to leave the sinking ship.
‘That’s not very loving’. Is it loving to stay and support a denomination which preaches and teaches a message which prepares people for Hell, not heaven? Is it loving to shore up a denomination which will attack and penalise your brothers and sisters who can’t stay? Is it loving to join in the political game and give the Lord’s people the impression that there is actually no reason you would ever leave a church? Of course there will be evangelicals who will stay and urge others to stay – and I’m not convinced that that is always wrong. But there also comes a time when evangelicals who prop up and support an apostate denomination are what Lenin would describe as ‘useful idiots’. How many times have I seen evangelicals suckered into acting on behalf of those who despise the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and that is done in the name of love! You let the sheep stay under false shepherds who will feed them to the wolves!
‘Calling it apostasy is too strong.”. Is it? “Apostasy is essentially a falling away, withdrawal, or abandonment of Christianity.” Is that not what the Methodist conference has done – have they not abandoned the teaching of Christ, abandoned the Bible, and denied the uniqueness of Christ? Have they not made a laughing stock of the Church, and been dishonest about what they were doing? The New Testament is very strong about churches and leaders which abandon the Gospel.
Jesus’s strongest words were for religious leaders who abandoned the Bible and became hypocrites (Matthew 23:27). He said that the Laodicean church was so bad that they made him sick (Revelation 3:15). And Paul told the Galatian church that those who preached a different Gospel should be under God’s curse. The Methodist church of the United Kingdom is now under God’s curse. If you believe the Bible. And if you don’t believe the Bible – what’s the point? Just go and join the Green/Red/Blue/Pink/ party, or some other political or social movement which reflects your views. Don’t turn the beautiful bride of Christ into the prostitute of Babylon (Revelation 17).
I am not one of those who say you should never belong to a ‘mixed’ denomination. After all the wheat and the tares grow together. But there does come a point when the ‘mix’ is so imbalanced that to stay in, means that you harm yourself, others, and bring disgrace upon the Gospel. In my view the Methodist Church this week went past that tipping point. Can God still use people who stay in the Methodist Church? – of course he can! He is God. But just because God can do something with the mess that we create, does not mean that we should disobey Him in order for him to show his power! Just because the Lord can use a donkey, does not mean that we should start braying!
We simply have to ask what Jesus thinks, and what he wants us to do….and we know that through his Word. We are not to be yoked together with unbelievers – and that is not primarily a message about marriage, but one about uniting with others in worship. What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What agreement is there between the temple of God and the temple of idols? That’s why the Lord says ‘come out from them and be separate, touch no unclean thing and I will receive you’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Meanwhile I remain encouraged. Churches come, and churches go…but The Church of Jesus Christ endures forever. It is being prepared for the wedding feast of the Lamb – and all real believers in every denomination belong to it. The Gates of Hell cannot prevail against Her. Although that does not mean that when one once faithful part, falls away and apostatises, we should not mourn – or pray for renewal and repentance.
Even so come soon, Lord Jesus. David